The Position of the ACHARYA of Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday
Shantikumar J. Bhatt - Baroda
Courtesy: "DESTINATION", published quarterly by I.S.S.O., Vol. 3, No. 10, 1994
The true, sincere and dedicated followers of Swaminarayan Sampraday as organized and visualized by Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan firmly believe that the Acharya is the only head of the Sampraday, as authorized by Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan Himself. For the sake of management of the ever expanding Sampraday Shree Hari Himself divided area of management into Northern Division and Southern Division, called Nar-Narayan Dev Gadi and Lakshmi-Narayan Dev Gadi, as these two main temples of Shree Nar-Narayan Dev and Shree Lakshmi-Narayan Dev are situated there respectively.
While managing the ever increasing number of temples, one has to deal with property, both movable as well as immovable, appointments, dismissals etc. Shree Hari wanted to keep His saints free from worldly affairs so that they can devote all their time to religious and spiritual practices and teaching and propagating the same. This was unique arrangement to keep the saints free from the temptation of worldly affairs.
The highly adorable planning has kept away the followers from hero-worship of the Acharya as is done elsewhere and has kept the followers firmly dedicated to Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan.
Shree Hari commanded that the Acharyas were to be the final arbitrators of all rules about restrictions and observances and the final authority in all religious disputes.
The Acharya alone can initiate a person as a follower by a simple ceremony. Only those saints initiated by the Acharya are the real saints of Swaminarayan Sampraday. (Shikshapatri Slok No. 128)
The ladies in Swaminarayan Sampraday are initiated by the wife of the Acharya. (Shikshapatri Slok No. 133) In Swaminarayan Sampraday all the saints have equal status and no particular saint is elected, selected or appointed as the head of all saints or the Holy Fellowship.
Constitutionally the Sampraday has made sufficient arrangement for the comfortable living of Acharya.
The first two Acharyas for the Sampraday were chosen from the holy relatives of Shree Hari, with the unanimous consent of all the followers. (Shikshapatri Slok No. 3) Family traditions being the most important for the management of religious, spiritual and worldly affairs, the rule of succession is strictly followed. The Acharyas, though householders have to lead a highly disciplined self-controlled life to maintain the prestige of their supreme position. They have to be great scholars with excellent manners, methods and etiquette.
The Acharyas install the Murtis (icons) in the temples and only such Murtis are divined to fulfill the desires of the followers. Same is the case of the Murtis presented by the Acharya at the time of the initiation, of a new follower.
The Acharyas through tradition have taken keen interest in the construction of temples and their renovation, and many other activities associated with the welfare of the public in general and the followers in particular.
His Holiness Acharya Shree Tejendraprasadji, the religious head of the Northern Division and His Holiness Acharya Shree Ajendraprasadji of the Southern Division-are both well educated and versatile. They take keen interest in all modern welfare activities for the followers in particular and for the public in general.
The saints, under the blessings and inspiration from the Acharyas continue to start schools, colleges, hostels, dispensaries and hospitals. Particularly the students in such hostels and educational institutions learn self-help and all the virtues that make the best among the citizens in any part of the world.
The Silver Jubilee and the Golden Jubilee of Acharya Shree Tejendraprasadji was celebrated with great pomp and pageantry by the followers. The aim of such celebrations is not publicity but such occasions initiate many welfare activities to commemorate such celebration, as we had marked when the Golden Jubilee of the birth of His Holiness Acharya Shree Tejendraprasadji and the Silver Jubilee of his installation as Acharya were celebrated on an unprecedented scale by the followers at Ahmedabad.
The readers should clearly bear in mind that there is only one Swaminarayan Sampraday which Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan had established and that Sampraday has only two Acharyas as the head of it.